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Op-Ed: Getting through the quarantine one puzzle piece at a time

Rug by Frank Gehry inspired by puzzle pieces
“Puzz,” a rug designed by Frank Gehry.
(Arzu Studio Hope)

We get a jigsaw puzzle of performance cars and a barn, hot rods with engines that roar, ones meant to go like hell in a straight line. Ones that are trouble if you like curves.

The puzzle arrives in a box, dismembered into “one thousand pieces.” On the coffee table it’s a confusing kaleidoscope of colors and cuts, continuity and meaning lost.

If we ever need to pass time during another quarantine, we know not to cavalierly empty the box on a brown coffee table. The tree pieces blend with the wood. We are hunched over like the peasant women in the Jean-Francois Millet painting “The Gleaners.” It’s uncertain what will fail us first, our backs or our eyesight.

In our “Dispatches From the Pandemic” series, we bring you personal stories from people whose lives have been altered by COVID-19.

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My wife, Kim, picks up a piece, carefully examines it, then asks, “What is this?”

“Looks like part of a grill,” I say.

“This piece,” she says, “reminds me of the first car we bought together.” I squint, and see it.

The border takes us three days to construct.

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“Nice work for a Tuesday,” I say. “It’s Wednesday,” Kim replies, tossing me The Times’ California section as evidence. I feel like I should hold the newspaper up like a kidnap victim showing proof of life, have Kim take a photo and send it to the kids.

We “saw” the grandkids last Sunday (maybe, who really knows?) when we donated our frozen package of orange chicken to them. We picked up some one Thursday at Costco. During the “special hours.” These days, you take what you can get.

To the grandkids, any orange chicken is special.

They showed up with their parents, walking around to the backyard from the driveway. “Can you hear us?” Kim and I ask from one side of the sliding-glass door. Our granddaughter shakes her head and says, “No.” Kim and I laugh. The girl’s brother, three years younger, is focused on his toy monster truck.

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Eventually both put their hands on the glass, spreading them to match ours. To them it’s a curiosity, a diversion they will not remember. But Kim and I will never forget.

Peter Gerrard lives in Irvine. The jigsaw puzzle is still unfinished.


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